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Free At Noon Flashback: Leif Vollebekk leaves it all onstage with intimate solo set

Leif Vollebekk | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Leif Vollebekk | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN

When we talk about singer/songwriter music, the word “intimate” pops up frequently. It makes sense, of course, since they tend to talk about things that are private or closely personal, but after a while, the word starts to feel redundant. With that being said, though, I can’t think of any other way to describe Leif Vollebekk’s set this afternoon. He’s using the same ingredients as many of his peers, but it still comes out feeling fresh, genuine, and yes, very intimate. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Chuck Prophet keeps the rock & roll tradition alive with crowd-pleasing acoustic set

Chuck Prophet | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | <A href=http://cameronpollackphotography.com target="_blank">cameronpollackphotography.com</a>
Chuck Prophet | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com

Singer/songwriter Chuck Prophet’s music is steeped in history. Whether it be the San Francisco-centric Temple Beautiful or the personal tales on 2014’s Night Surfer, there’s a palpable reverence for the past that can’t be ignored. The rock & roll tradition is constantly being reimagined and reinterpreted, and Chuck is just one of many reshaping it in his image. His latest, Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins, is sure to continue on that trajectory. On record, he’s usually joined by a full band, but one man and his guitar were more than enough to satisfy the Free At Noon audience this Friday afternoon. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Purling Hiss rages into 2017 with a set of High Bias jams

Purling Hiss | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | <a href=http://cameronpollack.com/ target="_blank">cameronpollack.com</a>
Purling Hiss | photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollack.com

Things got loud at the final Free at Noon concert of 2016. Philadelphia power trio Purling Hiss, fronted by dynamic guitarist Mike Polizze, tore through a 45-minute set centered around its eighth studio LP High Bias but drew from all corners of its career. The set opened with a burst of feedback and then “Learning Slowly,” an infectious song from its 2014 record Weirdon. The song is built around a racing motorcycle riff and is a testament to the band’s sense of heritage — behind the squeals and squalor, Polizze and the Hiss write songs strongly informed by classic 70s rock riffs and structures.

As the set proceeded, that contrast was underscored — howling noise of cuts like “3000 AD” and the cranky “Teddy’s Servo Motors” sat alongside poppy burners like “Fever” and the sing-along-able “Follow You Around.” There’s a bit of a Sex Pistols sneer in High Bias, and a touch of 80s college rock — evidenced by the band’s cover of “Green Eyes” by Hüsker Dü. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Matt Pond PA brings his wintry charm to WCL

Matt Pond PA / Cameron Pollack for WXPN
Matt Pond PA / Cameron Pollack for WXPN

Matt Pond PA‘s music was made for the long drive home, for the precious little time spent with family. The music off his new record Winter Lives evokes images of snow-capped pines and valleys dusted in white. His lyricism evokes imagery of a world that, while rife with problems, is still beautiful. His music, especially from this latest record, instills a belief that there is somehow still love out there, a belief, foremost, in people.

That belief shone throughout his Free at Noon set; starting with “In Winter” he made the room warm up with lyrics like “the cold will bring us close”, a welcome sentiment in a time where, frighteningly, everyone feels slightly more distant than usual. “The Glow,” a song written for Pond’s mother, was rife with vibrant guitar, and painted a beautiful picture of a family and all its messy dynamics in the dead of winter. Songs like “So Much Trouble”, “Love To Get Used” and “Halloween” showed Pond’s take on all the vicissitudes of life; humans, as it turns out, are still complicated. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Muddy Magnolias defy the afternoon with soulful midday set

Muddy Magnolias perform live at WXPN's Free At Noon Concert | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN
Muddy Magnolias perform live at WXPN’s Free At Noon Concert | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN

One powerful, acrobatic voice is great. Two, however, is a lot better; that’s just simple math. Muddy Magnolias, the singer/songwriter project of Nashvillians Jessy Wilson and Kallie North, is a prime example of this, and their debut album Broken People is the proof. It’s a soulful eleven track set, and it sounds just as good, if not better, live.

After kicking things off with the somber, intense spiritual “Down By The Riverside”, they launched into the album’s fiery title track with its rousing hook of “Do you go to bed hungry?”. Wilson and North began their relationship as drinking buddies, and that chemistry translates onstage, especially on playful, feel-good tracks like conscious single “Brother What Happened?” and lively Doobie Brothers cover “Alright”. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Secret Sisters play joyously “depressing” music in arresting afternoon set

The Secret Sisters | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN
The Secret Sisters | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN

With 2016 coming to its hotly anticipated close, it’s about time we got a little sentimental. The eve of yearly self-reflection is upon us, and with that in mind, maybe some sad, slow country songs from The Secret Sisters were just what the doctor ordered.  Laura and Lydia Rogers were self-deprecating throughout, calling their music “depressing,” but they backed it up with a passionate, arresting performance that I’ll be thinking about into the new year. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: December’s Artist to Watch Dawg Yawp mesmerizes with their unique brand of sitar-heavy rock

Dawg Yawp | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN
Dawg Yawp | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN

WXPN’s December Artist to Watch Dawg Yawp certainly did not disappoint today at their Free at Noon show.

Helen Leicht said it best, “They had me at sitar.” The duo from Cincinnati consisted of Tyler Randall, Rob Keenan, a sitar, an acoustic guitar and an array of homemade productions that  created the illusion of a much larger band than stood before the crowd that day. I typically try to draw comparisons between the band I’m writing about and another well-known artist so that readers can get a better grasp on the sound of the group set before them. I say this with the utmost sincerity, Dawg Yawp’s sound can be categorized as nothing except completely original. A feat very difficult to achieve in today’s scene that is so densely saturated in guitar rock. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: A packed house welcomes blues rocker Davy Knowles

Davy Knowles | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Davy Knowles | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

In the spirit of giving thanks, Helen Leicht started today’s Free at Noon by introducing Yards Brewing CEO Tom Kehoe, who earlier this month helped to raise $10,000 for Musicians on Call through the Yards Brawlerfest. On the memo line of the giant check that Kehoe presented was the hashtag #BrewUntoOthers, the local brewing company’s mantra that spreads a much-needed message of community involvement and betterment.

Also in the spirit of giving thanks, a near-capacity crowd welcomed blues rock musician Davy Knowles to World Cafe Live for an end-of tour midday concert. The Isle of Man native is currently supporting Three Miles from Avalon, his second solo effort following a popular career with Back Door Slam. Knowles wasted no time making sure we knew what he was there to do – and that was to blow our turkey- (or tofurkey-) filled socks off with blistering guitar solos and the well-crafted, American blues inspired songs from Avalon. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: The Pretenders bring peace, love, and rock n’ roll to the World Cafe Live stage

The Pretenders | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN
The Pretenders | photo by Tiana Timmerberg for WXPN

The Pretenders made the Free at Noon stage their second home, blazing through a set filled with some old and new tunes, all in the name of the band’s comeback release Alone. After keeping quiet for a good couple years (last releasing a record in 2008), these English/American legends blessed the world with the recent release of their new full-length and announcement of an extensive tour with the one and only Stevie Nicks. Lucky for us, World Cafe Live got a sneak preview of what’s to come for the legendary group.

Continue reading →